LYNCHBURG, Va. — Next year, they know, will be different. Yards will come harder, opponents will charge faster, crowds will roar louder. Those are the very real challenges of football in Virginia’s AAA classification, Briar Woods’s landing spot after its three-year monopoly in AA Division 4.
Saturday’s state final against Heritage-Lynchburg, then, offered the No. 4 Falcons something unique — something more enduring than the glory of an area-best 29th straight victory. With one last game, Briar Woods could broadcast its farewell message to the classification it was about to win for a third straight year. The Falcons’ 52-0 rout at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium, as it turned out, was a fitting goodbye. It capped only the second run of three consecutive titles in Group AA, and, more than that, it served as a forceful introduction for Briar Woods’s opponents-to-be.
“It’s just another step in the program, another step in the heritage and legacy of the school,” Coach Charlie Pierce said. “We’ll see what happens this next year.”
It will be hard to top this just-concluded one. This season, the Falcons (15-0) scored 627 points and allowed 98. They had six shutouts including Saturday’s, which set a record for margin of victory in a Group AA championship.
Against the overmatched Pioneers (12-2), the Briar Woods offense didn’t have to score to win. The only points the Falcons needed came late in the first quarter on a safety forced by J.T. Logan.
Thus began a run of dominance that, in some ways, was more impressive than the 42-3 record amassed these past three years. Where junior quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Cory Colder found holes they themselves didn’t seem to believe existed, Heritage only found resistance. The Pioneers’ lone first down in the first half came on a pass-interference call, and their last before a final-minute flea flicker came three minutes into the second half.
“We just wanted to come in and try to be as perfect as possible,” said McSorley, who had three touchdowns and finished 9 for 12 for 86 yards passing and 76 yards rushing. “Our goal was to be perfect, have a perfect record. In my mind, this week was all about perfection.”
Amid cheering classmates and crying parents, teammates feted Colder (160 yards on 23 carries) and tight end Cam Serigne (52 yards receiving) with all the exultance of conquering heroes. They were two of 13 seniors who led the Falcons to this point, and Serigne, grinning all the while, said afterward that he “couldn’t ask for a better send off.”
As for a dropoff? There may not be much of one in 2013. On the final play of the game, long after first-stringers had made way for appreciative backups, Falcons lineman Mark Birmingham chased down Heritage’s speedy JeVontae Parrish for a sack. The crowd erupted, not only because another title was theirs, but because Birmingham is only a freshman.